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For many of us, the first quarter of the year is usually synonymous with tax season. Soon, 1099 and W-2 forms will start to hit mailboxes around the country. Have you begun preparing your paperwork?

Tax season is a stressful time for many, but AARP is here to help: AARP Foundation Tax-Aide helps low- to moderate-income taxpayers have more discretionary income for everyday essentials, such as food and housing, by assisting with tax services and ensuring they receive applicable tax credits and deductions. 

A 2011 Customer Satisfaction Survey shows that 95% of 2.6 million people who have used this volunteer-run service are very satisfied, and 86% said the service they received was excellent. Interested? Use the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Locator to find assistance in your area. The program has helped seniors in need for more than 40 years in every State.

As with every year, there are some new filing changes taking effect in 2012. For example, personal and dependent exemptions along with thresholds for tax brackets will increase. Also, some pension plan limitations might affect your contributions to Roth IRAs and 401(k)s. Ask your Tax Aide assistant about how these changes will affect your filing submission.

To help you stay protected, AARP has highlighted 12 sensitive areas on your tax return that can trigger red flags and an IRS audit. Pay close attention to your homebuyer credit claims and charitable deductions. Also, claiming too many business expenses could attract negative scrutiny. And, of course, try to avoid mistakes when filling your tax return in print format. Before sending your paperwork, make sure it is complete and accurate. Tax Aide volunteers can help you avoid mistakes.

Did you earn a little extra cash this year? If you are like many Americans who earned extra income by selling baked cookies or renting out a room, then you may be required to estimate your taxes on that income and send a quarterly check to the IRS. If you don’t, you may have to pay late fees and penalties along with your tax contribution.

Check out AARP’s Tax Help Hub featuring links to tax forms as well as helpful articles with important information about how to report income, savings, investments and real estate.

With proper preparation and assistance, you can avoid costly mistakes and serious headaches this tax season. ¡Buena suerte!

Please support the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide by making a donation.

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